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Global Citizenship: An Imperative for Education

Since the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s launch of the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) in 2012, the international discourse on education has increasingly emphasized the role of education in “fostering global citizenship,” in the words of the Secretary-General. Given this, global citizenship education (GCE) has become a major priority for UNESCO.

©Global Education First Initiative

A number of key meetings were organized by UNESCO on the topic in 2013. This included the Technical Consultation on Global Citizenship Education organized jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea in Seoul on 9-10 September and the UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education held in Bangkok on 2-4 December. At the former, participants noted that there is no shared definition of what global citizenship is. While it does not entail a legal status, some envision it as being “citizenship beyond borders” or “citizenship outside the nation-state.” Others suggest that “cosmopolitanism” or “planetary citizenship” are broader and more inclusive terms. Despite these different perspectives, it was agreed that the overall goal of GCE is “to empower learners to engage and assume active roles both locally and globally to face and resolve global challenges and ultimately to become proactive contributors to a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world.”

In a sense UNESCO’s mandate, which at its core is about building peace through education, has always echoed this objective since the founding of the organization in 1945. With education as its priority programme sector, UNESCO has over the years implemented a number of initiatives to promote this mandate. In 1996, the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century presented UNESCO with the landmark report Learning: The Treasure Within which framed education around the “four pillars” of learning and highlighted the importance of the pillar on “learning to live together” specifically, which includes many aspects which are today being echoed in the dialogue around GCE. In 2002, the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) was launched, which also focuses on global challenges and the role of education in working together to build a sustainable future.

UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok) has in particular been active in terms of analytical work related to the concept of GCE. This reflects the increasing interest in issues of global citizenship in the rapidly developing and interconnected Asia-Pacific region. The ongoing research on “transversal skills” being conducted by the Education Research Institutes Network in the Asia-Pacific (ERI-Net) has established global citizenship as one of the four domains of transversal skills and is analyzing the degree to which education systems promote the key characteristics related to it. In addition, focusing on the angle of “learning to live together” (LTLT), UNESCO Bangkok conducted a multi-country research study on how LTLT is operationalized in education systems in the Asia-Pacific and recently produced a synthesis report.

In order to continue the discourse and contribute to agenda setting in terms of education in the post-2015 era, there will be a series of global meetings on GCE (both high-level and technical) organized this year as well, which will raise awareness of and advocate the importance of GCE in the lead-up to the World Education Forum in May 2015. As education systems work to address this area, it is hoped that the ultimate result will be a new generation of learners who are ready to contribute to the increasingly interconnected world of the future.

For more information, please contact Ramya Vivekanandan [r.vivekanandan(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit (EPR).

Written by Ramya Vivekanandan [r.vivekanandan(at)]

Related Links:

•  Global Education First Initiative (GEFI)
•  Outcome Document of the Technical Consultation on Global Citizenship Education
•  Learning to Live Together: Education Policies and Realities in the Asia-Pacific